New Why? Surfacing Around The Internets

Though not proper album tracks from the forthcoming, as yet untitled album, but a handlful of new songs have bubbled up. As part of a contest of sorts, the blog We Fear Change has requested users create videos and photos with the winner’s reward being a song composed for you. You can check out all the Golden Ticket Winners here.

My favorite thus far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sj9UKqHB5VE

As well, Yoni recently put up a single announcement video that’s somewhere between walking freestyle vlog and doing peyote in the 90’s. The biggest fact to take from the psychedelic pastiche is that they’re releasing a new single in about 6 weeks.

Take a look:

If you’re lucky enough to be in NYC or Boise, ID go see them live:

03/16/12 New York, NY Le Poisson Rouge
03/23/12 Boise, ID Treefort Music Fest (Main Stage Outside)

Picture unrelated.

Better Late Than Never – Best of 2009

Yeah, I know…it’s March. Presidents Day has passed and McDonalds is already selling Shamrock Shakes…a little late for the Best of 2009, but here we are. I never claimed to be one for timeliness, especially of late. For simplicity sake, the numbers associated with this list are just arbitrary…it’s pretty hard to rank things objectively, but the following is what I liked best about the shitty year that was 2009:

1. Dananananakroyd – Hey Everyone!

Cheeky band name aside, Hey Everyone! is an incredibly solid debut. The album is a fantastic shot of energy, bundling riffs that Le Savvy Fav wish they’d written with some of the weirdo sheen I loved so much about the sadly defunct Blood Brothers. One thing that kills me about the best songs on the album is that Dananananakroyd is one of the few bands kicking around that has the concept of a solid build and breakdown. “Black Wax”, the song I turned to most often when I needed to clear the bullshit from my brain, culminates in a fantastic riff & drum fill combination that would make anyone in the 80’s take pause during a line of coke.

Lyrically, you’ve got a weird split…there’s a song called “Totally Bone” which seems to be about emasculation and fucking, while the track “Hey James” has a lyrical riff on the Jungian concept of ego in the opening verse. This past year I came to the realization that sad bastard music does indeed contribute to your state as a sad bastard, so an album full of high tempos, tasteful screaming and good Glaswegan proto-punk riffs is ok by me.

And, considering I just rewatched Ghostbusters and it’s still a classic…I’m good with a Dan Aykroyd inspired band name.


DANANANANAYKROYD – BLACK WAX

2. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

I think there’s been more than enough chatter over the last year about Dirty Projector’s most recent release, so I won’t linger here too long. If Beyonce’s little sister is covering your songs, you’ve hit a certain plateau and there’s not much more to say about what they’re producing.

That said, it’s hitting wide for a reason. The electronics of the previous albums has been replaced with a live band that can reproduce the weirdness in Dave Longstreth’s brain. It’s odd how simply putting their electro classical eccentricities in a band context made the whole affair more palatable. To pinch a reaction my dad had after checking the album out, “Bitte Orca is like listening to dyslexia” and that’s a mighty benefit in my mind. A perfect album to sing along to when nobody is around.

3. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Again, another album that’s had enough press and sales to merit knocking it from the list, but it’s hard to deny that Veckatimest is an incredibly sold release that will have many imitators. “Two Weeks” is a brilliant piece of work and was my unofficial jam of last summer.

The freaky video helped too.

4. Dan Deacon – Bromst

Another album, like Bitte Orca that successfully takes a usually electronic core and does its best to transcribe it into the organic. I was already a fan of Dan Deacon and his green skull fueled live show, but with Bromst, I found myself appreciating the complexity more. Pitchfork had a fantastic, but but now pulled documentary on the making of Bromst that gave some wonderful insight into the production process that went into the album. No great album should need an accompanying text explaining it to add to the enjoyment, but it was definitely a great thrill to watch them tinker with a midi player piano for the parts too fast for human hands. Equally impressive was the accompanying tour which forced him away from his usual performance spot in the center of the crowd and onstage to accommodate the 14 piece ensemble needed to perform the new songs. It seemed like a very frustrating venture for Deacon who normal thrives being at the center of the hurricane that is his live show, but I think be it a personal success or failure for him, it was amazing to see him pushing his own boundaries. The show I caught at The Wonder Ballroom in Portland was probably the best show I saw all year.

5. Why? – Eskimo Snow

I’ve written about this band probably more than any other band in TTM’s spotty and short life. I did a focus on the album a few months ago, which you can read here. It’s a quality album from a growing artist…I’m not sure if it’s his strongest overall, but it definitely stands as one of the best of the year.

6. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

A comedown of an album, especially in the context of 2007’s doomy & layered Armchair Aprocrapha, the calming overall flow of Noble Beast is still a choice record overall. Like with Why?, I find it tough to pick an album I like best because the peaks and valleys of each of their discographies are something that never lines up with a complete album. Andrew Bird is another must see live…I caught him for the 9th time this past year and the evolution of his live show is an awesome counterpart to the music he makes. Finally backed by a full band, the work you get on the album comes closer than ever to what he’s performing live. Check out my writeup from back in February and give a listen to the most interestingly twisty song on the album Anonanimal:

ANDREW BIRD – ANONANIMAL

7. Miike Snow – Miike Snow

I think on first glance, I had to give this album a few chances before I accepted it in. Given a few tries, you’ll find there’s a lot of polished hooks and lovely electronics layered into every song. In my continuing effort to listen to more upbeat music, this did a solid job of fitting the bill. Even the slower numbers, especially the broody Silvia, keep a great underlying beat and the accompanying video could be a electro outtake from the recent film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Also, check out this clip of them performing the song live on KCRW is worth a look too, gives me some hope that they have a solid live show to back up a studio heavy album.

8. The XX – The XX

I know the pendulum has swung back and the time is now to shit on this once buzz-enswarmed band. This will often happen when your wikipedia page includes the following paragraph:

“Their song “Intro” is also being used in a promotional commercial for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the series Cold Case and Law & Order on the Dutch television network Net 5, and “VCR” was featured in a Lie to Me episode. In episode 7 of the online BBC EastEnders spin-off E20 their cover of “Teardrops” was used. Their song “Heart Skipped a beat” was featured in a 2009 episode of 90210 (TV series). The song “Islands” was used in an episode of the Golden Globe-winning medical drama Grey’s Anatomy.

Success is a bitch, and the blog hive mind really only loves you when your sales demographic isn’t the same as Grey’s Anatomy. That said, I still want to give this album credit where credit is due; minimalism is tough to do right and The XX have a pretty exceptional grasp on the simple, steely mood they do so well.

LA’s Nosaj Thing did a pretty fantastic remix of the album standout “Islands” that turns the mood murky with a lovely layer of analog wash.

THE XX – ISLANDS (NOSAJ THING REMIX)

9. Talkdemonic – Eyes At Half Mast

While I’m one to hold a candle for the quintessentially dead genre that is post rock, there’s still a handful of bands out there mucking about with the formula and creating something worth listening to. As a duo, Talkdemonic takes a slimmer approach than the usual GSYBE sized mob, giving you just a drummer and violinist. Their music is a swirling mass, Lisa Molinaro’s somber violin creeping around Kevin O’Connor’s clamorous drumming. With Eyes At Half Mast, the band mixes the tempo up combining slinky, atmospheric songs with driving, percussion fueled numbers that match the fire of their live show. Although the album was released in late 2008, I want to give some praise to the Portland duo’s fine release.

TALKDEMONIC – MARCH MOVEMENT

10. The Dodos – Time To Die

The simplicity of their music is a strength, relying on the warm vocal melodies of Meric Long to serve as the subdued hook. Drummer Logan Kroeber’s accompanying polyrythms keep their music at a more complex and interesting pace than most comparable indie folk, which often lulls me into a bored slumber. I could probably find some fault in the simplicity of Long’s lyrics, but most every other element on Time To Die does such a fantastic job at being memorable that the album earned a spot on the list.

Album closer “Time To Die” is a great summation of the overall tone of the album, beginning with soft vibes and acoustic guitar that jumps in with a drum propelled tone shift midway through.

THE DODOS – TIME TO DIE

Given my current pace, keep a lookout for my wrap up of 2010 sometime after the next presidential election.

Why? – Eskimo Snow

There’s a lot contained below the surface of Eskimo Snow and what’s underneath is not entirely an uplifting affair. The album, which was released in late September on Anticon Records, is almost completely devoid of the hip-hop sheen that glossed both Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia and what is left settles with much more heft and weight. Much of the humorous subtext is gone as well, though the wordplay left behind is no less clever. The album gives off the air of a defeated narrator, be it Yoni himself or the character he’s woven into the band’s three albums, someone who has laid down his arms in light of the arriving war. The first two albums settled a mixture of reaction to the world around him with wry commentary, Elephant Eyelash brimming with a bit more uptempo sadness followed by Alopecia’s growing frustration. Put in context, the core of Eskimo Snow, in both lyrics and music is something more introspective

I had the pleasure of interviewing Yoni back in early 2006 just before one of their opening shows for The Silver Jews at Chicago’s Double Door. The read I got off him then was a sincere one, as he was a genuinely kind and grounded guy who spoke with as much sincerity off the stage as he did in his lyrics. Between then and now, one has to assume that as you progress as a person of interest in the public eye, there is a divergence between the self you present in your art and the self you live. Over the course of the last two albums, it’s safe to guess that more of a ‘narrative interpretation of Yoni’ has crept into the lyrics. The process of exposing yourself through your art, especially to the extreme that he does can create two representations of one’s self. Even with those ideas are taken into account, Alopecia and Eskimo Snow were born of the same recording sessions, so to say that there’s an evolution over time could be a less than true guess.

Character analysis aside, when you take away the hip-hop sway and gloss humor, what’s left at the core is a dense affair. The same themes of morality, self image, and mortality run through the core of this record. The songs stand strong individually despite the brief length of some, like the hypnotic album opener These Hands. This pairs a rising coo of discordant backup vocals with Yoni’s comparison of his own life’s progress to his father’s. The deep reverb on his voice paired with the lonely piano chords makes for something that creeps under the skin and at under two minutes is gone before you really recognize what is going on.

Why? – These Hands

Another highlight rests with Into The Shadows Of My Embrace, which leans on a swirl of keyboards and xylophone as it marches toward an almost melodramatic musical and lyrical peak where he sings about the extreme of his confessional nature. The kind of straight pop style that he uses in songs like this and Alopecia’s Simeon’s Dilemma and Brook & Waxing were a shift in style that I had to really wrap my head around, but the way they’re executed it grows on you.

Why? – Into the Shadows of My Embrace

With the tour supporting this album, there was a pretty interesting shift in the band’s setup. My last show in Portland was them with the charmingly enigmatic Phil Elverum, this time doing what could best be described as epic Anacortes sludge metal. Why?’s live setup for this tour featured Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson of Fog, so that the full band that participated in the Eskimo Snow and Alopecia recording sessions was present. Earlier tours, they’d shift up the arrangement and subtract elements to perform the songs live, but the full roster of folks on stage allowed for a pretty fair recreation of the album’s sound, down to the barely there backup vocals on Against Me which I always chalked up to reverb. Usually, Yoni would have a setup of a snare drum and a keyboard hooked up to a few effects pedals, but now he was able to function more as a lead man, free to move around the stage untethered. Overall, the show was the most solid and confidant I’ve seen them yet, a reflection on the changes musically and lyrically on the album.

Ultimately, Eskimo Snow chopped up snippets of someone’s life, very much not my own, but the emotion behind it all rings true with me. The feeling of frustration and exhaustion, that I feel a lot of people are suffering through as the world lets loose what could only be described as a massive economic sigh. The emotional pull of the album is more important than the specifics of musical influences or which track hides the cleverest lyric, as Eskimo Snow yields a rewarding listen weather you take the stories as truth or fragments of Mr. Wolf’s own mythos.

Eskimo Snow was released by Anticon Records on September 22nd 2009

Why? MEGATOUR (LA’s ECHOPLEX TONIGHT & RAFTER MP3s!)

Why? stands as the most blogged about band here on Taking Tiger Mountain in its short little life, but I do unabashedly love them. Yoni is one of few people I’ve had the pleasure of doing an in-person interview with back in ’06; I talked with him at Chicago’s Double Door before their opening slot for The Silver Jews. I’ve seen them quite a bit in my free time and also reviewed their shows on more than one occasion (The Double Door show and later opening for Yo La Tengo at Chicago’s Vic Theater). They’re starting a long few months of touring, hitting Los Angeles’s Echoplex tomorrow.

That show will include DJ’s from Dublab and Asmatic Kitty’s Rafter as openers.

After tonight’s LA date, Why? heads out for a long jaunt that stretches into a European tour. Dates below:

09-04 – Los Angeles, CA Echoplex
09-05 – Tempe, AZ The Clubhouse
09-06 – Tucson, AZ Solar Culture
09-08 – Austin, TX Mohawk*
09-09 – Dallas, TX Granada Theater*
09-11 – Pensacola, FL Sluggo’s*
09-12 – Gainseville, FL Common Grounds*
09-13 – Miami, FL White Room*
09-14 – Orlando, FL The Social*
09-16 – Asheville, NC Grey Eagle*
09-17 – Philadelphia, PA First Unitarian Church*
09-18 – New York, NY Bowery Ballroom*
09-19 – Boston, MA Museum of Fine Arts
09-20 – Portland, ME Space Gallery
09-21 – Providence, RI Club Hell
09-22 – Montreal, QC La Sala Rossa
09-25 – Cincinnati, OH Midpoint Music Festival
09-26 – Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge#
09-27 – Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock#
09-29 – Denver, CO Hi- Dive
09-30 – Salt Lake City UT Kilby Court
10-02 – Vancouver, BC Richard’s On Richard
10-03 – Seattle, WA Vera Project
10-04 – Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom
10-22 – Confort Moderne – Poitiers
10-23 – Le Fil – Saint Etienne
10-24 – La Vapeur – Dijon
10-25 – BB Mix Festival – Paris
10-27 – Pirates Cabaret – Amiens
10-28 – Electrique – La Havre
10-29 – L’Antipode – Rennes
10-30 – Festival Yamoy – Nantes
10-31 – Rockomotives – Vendôme
11-01 – Andrew Lane Theatre – Dublin
11-03 – TBA – London
11-06 – Centre Culturel – Massy
11-07 – Musique Volante – Metz
11-08 – Super Sound Festival – Colmar
11-11 – Maria Am Ufer – Berlin
11-12 – Ut Connewitz – Leipzig

% = w/ Tussle
* = w/ Mount Eerie
# = w/ Tobacco

I’ll be at the Echoplex tonight, jealous of all the folks who get to see the shows with Mount Eerie. That’ll be something special.

In honor of the Rafter’s new EP which drops September 9th, here’s a few insane tracks that Asthmatic Kitty has released:

‘Salt’ from 2008’s Sweaty Magic
Download

‘Juicy’ from 2008’s Sweaty Magic
Download

‘Sweat’ from 2008’s Sweaty Magic
Download

BUY IT

To Charm By Confusing – Fog

Ditherer is by far one of the more challenging albums I’ve encountered this year. There are far more outwardly bizarre records that have been and will be released this year, but Fog has slipped us something of a wolf in pop music’s clothing. Contained in the expanse of Ditherer are songs that feel somewhat normal, but are propelled by some psychotic veneer. As an album, it shifts gears compulsively; blindly slipping between the twitchy clatter of Inflatable Ape to the lazy mourning of What’s Up Freaks.

I initially struggled with this album, constantly wanting to write it off for a short attention span and a jarring lyrical sense of humor. Little spastic touches like the deranged rising scale riff in the middle of I Have Been Wronged give light to the type of semi-charming psychosis that the album exhibits. The learning curve, even for one who’s got an ear for this kind of skewed outlook, is a little tough. I found myself charmed by one song at a time, listening to that track alone in the mindset that I’d never crack the riddle of the other 10 tracks. Slowly, a new song would catch my ear and I’d decode the foreign melody.

Albums, like this, that come clear over time, after a challenge of repeated listen are ultimately rewarding ones.

Check out these live sets from University of Minnesota’s Radio K which features both a six song set of Andrew Broder solo as well as a three song set with the full band.

Also an Onion AV Club interview with the trio from late 2007.

Fog – Your Beef Is Mine

MP3: Why? – Close To Me (The Cure Cover)

Now, I’m a renowned anti-Curefan.

It’s also known that I’m a pretty staunch Why? fan.

I stumbled upon this surprise: Why? doing a time stretched half-drunk cover of The Cure’s ‘Close To Me’.

As a sad-pop dirge, it’s a winner: the solemn drawn out guitars and barely-there drum beat feel like they’re connected by spiderwebs that might dissolve at any moment. Even Yoni doesn’t sound totally like normal, hiding his distinctive voice behind the nearly glacial wall of guitar.

As a Cure cover, um…I don’t know. I don’t know the original and I don’t have the journalistic integrity to go find the original and compare. I’ll probably have a hard time even tagging this entry with “the cure”.

C’est la vie.

[audio:Why_CloseToMe.mp3]